Academic Functioning

Emotional Distress, Learning Challenges & Academic Functioning

The connection between emotional distress and academic functioning and performance is well documented, as well as the importance of early treatment to prevent more longstanding and serious problems.  The effect of undiagnosed learning deficits on academic success is also well known.

So how does emotional problems affect school or academic functioning?  We all know that mood correlates with motivation and energy levels and low levels of motivation and energy affect academic functioning.  Poor self-esteem and low self worth can also influence academic dynamics, and it is well known that when we feel good we perform better.  Individuals with low self worth may also be less likely to volunteer for leadership opportunities or other school-related tasks.  Difficulty sleeping and even insomnia can affect mental alertness and cause fatigue, making it challenging to function the next day.  Social functioning and peer relationships can be impacted as well.

There is often mental distractibility & difficulty focusing and concentrating with emotional distress, which clearly impacts academic functioning and performance.  There could also be difficulty sustaining the mental effort needed for schoolwork/ long projects.  Problems getting going in the morning could be associated with being late to school and even school absences.  There could be slowing or slowed information processing, making tasks or tests with time constraints especially difficult.  Trouble finishing assignments and turning them in on time effects performance. 

Significant emotional distress has also been linked to substance use, which clearly affects consciousness, judgment, mood and academic success.  The connection between physical health and mental health is also well documented, and psychosomatic symptoms/physical health problems could result from untreated mental health issues, causing more school absences.

In addition to interfering with academic performance, emotional distress, learning challenges and academic issues can impact daily living and quality of life if not addressed. Without needed treatment and/or accommodations, an individual is not likely to function at full academic potential.  For example, individuals with learning difficulties or academic problems often need school or test accommodations to perform optimally.  However, identified academic or learning problems with proper accommodations can help a student function at their optimal level.  Emotional distress can also be treated and therapy typically has a high efficacy rate.  Clearly addressing mental health and academic or learning issues will help promote wellbeing and academic success.